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They say smartphones killed the “point-and-shoot” camera, but reports of the death of these pocket-friendly picture takers have been greatly exaggerated. While low-end models have largely bitten the dust, there are still many premium compact cameras with advanced features and superior lenses that will blow your iPhone’s camera out of the water. Along with offering better image quality than smartphones, our five favorite compact cameras for artists are still small and portable enough to bring with you anywhere, so you’re ready when inspiration strikes.
Best Overall: Sony RX100 VII Compact Camera
The Sony RX100 VII proves good things come in small packages. While this all-in-one camera is slim enough to fit in your pocket, it boasts features and image quality rivaling those of bigger cameras that use interchangeable lenses. The RX100 VII’s versatility starts with its 8x (24–200mm equivalent, f/2.8–4.5) image-stabilizing lens, which lets you shoot sharp close-ups of distant subjects, such as wildlife, or wide-angle landscapes with just a tap of the zoom ring. The camera features a 1-inch, 20.1-megapixel sensor with Sony’s latest BIONZ processor, so image quality is excellent, even in low light. The RX100 VII is also great for capturing action thanks to its ability to fire off bursts of 20 shots per second while automatically tracking your subject. There’s also automatic eye detection for people and pets. For video, the RX100 VII can shoot 4K and there’s an external port for adding a microphone. We also liked the handy tiling touch screen and pop-up electronic viewfinder.
Most Rugged and Waterproof: Olympus Tough TG-6
The Olympus Tough TG-6 can take a licking and keep on clicking. This trim little camera in Olympus’s dependable Tough line is waterproof to 50 feet, dustproof, shockproof to withstand drops of up to seven feet, crushproof to 100 kilograms of force, and freezeproof to 14 degrees Fahrenheit. It also has a dual-pane protective glass construction to seal out water and prevent lens fogging. In other words, you can bring the TG-6 just about anywhere you want to take pictures—the beach, the lake, the pool, or the slopes—and not worry about damaging it. This 12-megapixel compact camera has a 4x optical zoom (25-100mm equivalent) lens with a fast f/2.0 aperture that will help you shoot low-light shots underwater without having to use the flash. For video, it can shoot 4K and 120fps high-speed movies that can be played back in slow motion. Macro modes have improved, too, so you’ll be able to capture unique close-up shots of plants, flowers, and undersea life.
Best for Vlogging: Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark III
If you’re already vlogging or planning to launch a YouTube channel, the Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark III is a great option thanks to its stellar video features and compact profile. In particular, we liked the flip-up rear screen so you can see yourself on camera while vlogging, and a new live-streaming feature that lets you post video directly from the camera to YouTube via WiFi. The G7 X III can capture 4K with no cropping, letting you use the full wide angle from the camera’s 4.2x (24–100mm f/1.8–2.8) optical zoom lens while shooting video. There’s also a built-in microphone jack so you can you attach a high-quality mic. For still photos, the G7 X III has a 20.1-megapixel, 1-inch image sensor that’s significantly larger than what you’d find in a smartphone, so image quality is better. Plus, you can shoot RAW images, letting you get the most out of your photos during editing.
Best for Street Photography: Ricoh GR IIIx Digital Camera
The Ricoh GR IIIx is one of the fastest pocket-size cameras we’ve ever shot with, making it a great choice for firing off discreet street photos on the fly. Ricoh has fit a large, 24.2–megapixel APS-C sensor that’s typically used in much bigger DSLRs and mirrorless cameras into the GR IIIx’s slim body, so image quality is outstanding. The GR IIIx also has a fast, 40mm-equivalent, f/2.8 lens and in-camera “shake reduction,” which produced sharp photos even when “running and gunning” in low light. It should be noted that there’s no optical zoom since the camera has a fixed lens. We appreciated the zippy hybrid autofocus, though, and because it doesn’t have a zoom, you don’t have to wait for it to deploy when you power the camera on. Just aim and shoot. The GR IIIx’s subtle, all-black body won’t turn heads (which is the point), but it’s surprisingly durable and ergonomic. Video is only so-so (there’s no 4K), but photographers who appreciate picture-taking performance will love this grab-and-go stealth shooter.
Best Retro Style: Fujifilm X100V
The Fujifilm X100V has a classic, throwback look, but this rangefinder-type compact camera is thoroughly modern. Featuring a 26.1-megapixel APS-C image sensor, the X100V produced excellent image quality, capturing gorgeous photos with rich detail even in low light. We also appreciated the 23mm f/2.0 “pancake” lens, which stays flush to the X100V’s body and captured crisp images and 4K video while maintaining the camera’s overall slim profile. The X100V has an array of fun film simulation modes including our favorites, Velvia (vivid) and Classic Chrome, along with the newly added Eterna Bleach Bypass, which adds a striking desaturated, high-contrast effect to your images. The rear 3-inch tilting touch screen comes in handy, letting you more easily compose shots while holding the camera above or below eye level (it also works great as a waist-level viewfinder). While the Fujifilm X100V has been billed as a street photographer’s camera, we thought it performed exceedingly well for portraits with true-to-life skin tones.